Story updated: Friday 24 March
Rioters set fire to Bordeaux’s historic town hall last night (23 March) amid continued demonstrations against the decision to raise France’s pension age from 62 to 64. President Emmanuel Macron has refused to back down over the plans, leading more than a million people to vent their anger in protests across the country.
The increasingly heated demonstrations led King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla to abandon a state visit, which was expected to begin on Sunday. It was scheduled to be King Charles’ first overseas tour since succeeding Queen Elizabeth II last year. The royals were due to be welcomed with a state banquet at the Château de Versailles, and they were also planning to address senators and members of the National Assembly at the French Senate.
On Tuesday 28 March, King Charles and Camilla were scheduled to leave Paris and head to Bordeaux, which was chosen due to its large number of British residents. A new permanent home has opened for the British Consulate in the city centre, so the royal couple hoped to officially open it, while meeting prominent members of the local Franco-British community. They were then planning to visit the outskirts of the city to see the damage caused by forest fires last year.
The couple were then going to visit the organic wine estate Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classé in Pessac-Léognan, which has pioneered a sustainable approach to winemaking. It produces its own solar energy and it also captures any carbon emissions it produces and converts them.
Queen Consort Camilla has previously served as the president of the UK Vineyards Association, and she has passionately championed the industry in the past. King Charles is renowned for his love of Scotch whisky – his trust has previously sold a single malt created by Laphroaig under the Highgrove label – but he is also a wine drinker.
After touring Bordeaux, King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla were due to head to Berlin on Wednesday 29 March. They will avoid visiting France, but they are still expected to spend three days in Germany, so that will now represent his first overseas visit.
A palace spokesperson had said: ‘The visit will celebrate the UK’s relationship with France and Germany, marking our shared histories, culture and values.
‘It is also a chance to look forwards and show the many ways our countries are working in partnership, whether that be to tackle climate change, respond to the conflict in Ukraine, seize trade and investment opportunities or share the best of our arts and culture.
‘As well as speaking to the strength of the United Kingdom’s bilateral relationships with France and Germany, Their Majesties’ visit will include engagements highlighting the importance of sustainability and community – key themes which have been embraced by citizens of all our countries.
‘There will also be opportunities to reflect on the sacrifices and challenges of our shared past, out of which has come an enduring legacy of cooperation and reconciliation.’
However, the visit to France has now been postponed. Buckingham Palace said the delay was due to the ‘situation in France’.
In a statement, it added: ‘Their Majesties greatly look forward to the opportunity to visit France as soon as dates can be found.’
The UK government said the decision had been ‘taken with the consent of all parties, after the President of France asked the British Government to postpone the visit’.